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Morning news brief

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Nashville is in mourning today after a shooting at a small Christian school.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Yeah, three adults and three 9-year-old children lost their lives. Police then fatally shot the 28-year-old who killed them. President Joe Biden expressed his condolences and urged Congress to pass an assault weapons ban.

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PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: It's heartbreaking, a family's worst nightmare. We have to do more to stop gun violence. It's ripping our communities apart.

MARTIN: Tony Gonzalez from member station WPLN in Nashville is with us now to tell us more. Good morning, Tony. What have we learned so far about what happened here?

TONY GONZALEZ, BYLINE: Yeah, well, we've seen some surveillance video now. It shows the shooter apparently breaking into the school by shooting through some locked glass doors. The police have not shared a motive, but they have been gathering a lot of information about the shooter, who was a former student at that school, Covenant School. Police identified the shooter as Audrey Hale and say the shooter used he/him pronouns. The police and FBI agents - they spent hours at the house where Hale lived, also spoke with his father. Nashville Police Chief John Drake calls all of this a targeted attack that was calculated and planned.

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JOHN DRAKE: We have a manifesto. We have some writings that we're going over that pertain to this day, the actual incident. We have a map drawn out of how this was all going to take place.

GONZALEZ: The chief also says that the three guns the shooter had, including two assault rifles, appear to have been legally obtained locally here.

MARTIN: And Tony, what can you tell us about the victims?

GONZALEZ: Yeah, there are six victims. They're on a lot of minds here today. Three adult staff members, all in their 60s, were killed. So one of those was the head of the school, Katherine Koonce, as well as Cynthia Peak, who we are told was a substitute teacher on campus that day, and custodian Mike Hill. The three children were 9 years old - Evelyn Dieckhaus, Hallie Scruggs and William Kinney. The paramedics rushed them to the nearest children's hospital, but they didn't survive.

MARTIN: And how are people in Nashville reacting to all of this?

GONZALEZ: Well, a lot of fear, I mean, dread, you know, the pit of the stomach feeling when the news broke, also anguish and anger. There was anger during the day. People are also trying to, I think, show some kind of resilience. There were multiple vigils that took place. We expect more of those today. Nashville's mayor - that's John Cooper - he had a lot of praise for the first responders who, you know, got to the school. They rushed in, tried to save lives. But he is also pretty frank about it, that, you know, the city is now on this list of places that have had to experience a mass shooting inside a school.

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JOHN COOPER: Guns are quick. They don't give you much time. So even in a remarkably fast response, there was not enough time. And those guns stole precious lives from us today in Nashville.

GONZALEZ: There's also a local relief fund that has been set up for the Covenant School.

MARTIN: Tony, before we let you go, as briefly as you can, did the school take measures to keep students safe? What do we know about that?

GONZALEZ: Yeah, I mean, there's not a lot known about that yet. This is a private Christian school. There's no school resource officer there. But we have learned that they did perform active shooter drills and that after the initial incident began, it sounds like some people were able to escape outside to a nearby tree line.

MARTIN: That's Tony Gonzalez from WPLN in Nashville. Tony, thank you.

GONZALEZ: Thank you.

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MARTIN: Israel has walked back from the brink for now.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. After three months of street protests and turmoil inside the military that intensified into a nationwide labor strike yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put the brakes on his plan to take some control over the judiciary. He's agreed to postpone the move for a month to try to reach a consensus within the opposition. But protesters say they're not ready to give up the fight.

MARTIN: For the latest, we turn to NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thank you so much for being here.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Michel.

MARTIN: So as A said, these protests have been going on for months. But would you just remind us about why so many Israelis have been so infuriated about this judicial overhaul and what made Netanyahu walk it back?

ESTRIN: You know, Israelis really see this as a battle for the soul of their country. The far right is in power, along with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and his coalition wants to advance ultranationalist religious laws. And the only ones that would likely stand in their way is the Supreme Court. So Netanyahu has been saying the court should not have all the power that it does have over the elected majority. He's been advancing all kinds of laws to try to reduce the court's independence. But many Israelis in the streets say this is a threat of dictatorship. So Netanyahu has backed down for now. There's been unprecedented public pressure. There's been even some of his own party supporters turning on him. And the White House exerted a ton of pressure. I spoke with a person familiar with the matter who told me about multiple phone calls on multiple levels between the White House and Israel. And that may have helped Netanyahu convince his partners to put on the brakes.

MARTIN: So what's the mood now after all this?

ESTRIN: It's really been a confusing morning. In some ways, normalcy is back. The labor strike has been canceled, so the airport, the malls, even McDonald's is back open again today. But there is a lot of uncertainty. For instance, is the defense minister actually fired? Netanyahu fired him just a couple of days ago. Is the legislation actually dead? Those who support the judicial overhaul don't trust that Netanyahu will actually pass it now. This is Amitai Ruskin.

AMITAI RUSKIN: If you delay it, it will never be restarted. It was taken out to the shed, and it was shot.

ESTRIN: And then I spoke with people who oppose the judicial overhaul, and they think Netanyahu will actually carry it out. But these protesters are feeling encouraged by their show of force in the streets. Listen to this one. He was blocking a road last night - in his 20s, Matan Rosenberg.

MATAN ROSENBERG: And what happened to me as a secular liberal is for a decade, my generation and all these people were just avoiding politics at any cost. And what Bibi did - and I'm happy for that; I thank him for that - is waking up the liberal camp.

ESTRIN: You know, Michel, I should say last night, far-right activists harassed some Palestinians, some of these democracy protesters also, and police sprayed the protesters with water cannons.

MARTIN: So, Daniel, before we let you go, what do you think we can expect in the coming weeks? And what effect is this having on Netanyahu's leadership? I mean, is there a chance that he will not survive this?

ESTRIN: That's a big question. I mean, Netanyahu could just drop this judicial overhaul and promote another part of his coalition's religious ultranationalist agenda. He does need to placate his hard-right coalition partners so that he can stay in power. That's the best place for him to be while he's on corruption trial. He even placated his far-right security minister last night, promising him his own National Guard, which many people see as a scary prospect. But, you know, Michel, Netanyahu will do anything he can to survive. The polls are showing his political support has dropped. He for now has narrowly survived this.

MARTIN: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thank you.

ESTRIN: You're welcome.

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MARTIN: A textbook case of mismanagement.

MARTÍNEZ: That is how a top government regulator describes the meltdown at Silicon Valley Bank this month. Now, today, a Senate panel explores what went wrong at the bank - also why warnings from government supervisors were ignored and how to prevent similar bank failures in the future.

MARTIN: NPR's Scott Horsley is with us now with a preview. Scott, thank you so much for being here.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So the Silicon Valley Bank collapse was the second-biggest bank failure in U.S. history. What do we know about what went wrong?

HORSLEY: It was a collision of some very old-fashioned banking mistakes with the fast-moving tech that Silicon Valley is famous for. The bank more than tripled in size in the last three years, and with that rapid growth, it didn't manage its risks very well. The bank invested a lot of money in government bonds that lost value when interest rates rose. Now, none of this came out of the blue. Government supervisors flagged problems at the bank in 2021 and again last year. In fact, when Federal Reserve officials were briefed last month about the hole that rising interest rates are putting in some bank balance sheets, Silicon Valley Bank was singled out as a poster child. Nevertheless, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell says the problems were not addressed until it was too late.

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JEROME POWELL: The supervisory team was apparently engaged, very much engaged with the bank repeatedly and was escalating. But, you know, nonetheless, what happened happened.

HORSLEY: And what happened was a massive and surprisingly rapid run on the bank. Ninety percent of Silicon Valley's deposits were uninsured. And when customers got wind of the problems through text messages and social media, they pulled money out faster than anybody expected.

MARTIN: But Scott, if government supervisors were aware of the problems, why weren't they fixed sooner?

HORSLEY: I'm sure there's going to be questions about that during today's hearing. The Fed itself is looking at how effective supervisors are and whether they have the tools they need. The Fed also says it's looking at its own culture to see if it's adequately supporting bank supervisors. Dennis Kelleher, who heads the watchdog group Better Markets, says for the last five years or so, the culture at the Fed has leaned towards deregulation and a light touch on bank oversight.

DENNIS KELLEHER: In fact, The Wall Street Journal had a big headline in 2018 that said "Banks To Get Kinder, Gentler Treatment Under Trump Regulators." And the entire story was about how the Fed people in Washington were beating up on the supervisors to go easy on the bankers.

HORSLEY: Now, it may be that some stronger legislation comes out of this mess, but that's a pretty tall order in a divided Congress. What's more likely are some new rules and maybe some more aggressive bank oversight.

MARTIN: So there's certainly going to be a call to do something, because remind us just of how costly this was, right?

HORSLEY: Right. The FDIC estimates that backstopping all the deposits at Silicon Valley Bank is going to cost the government's insurance fund $20 billion. Now, that's not coming from taxpayers, but it will come from an assessment on other banks. And there's likely to be a debate about how much deposit insurance should be available. Deposits are typically only insured up to $250,000. But Silicon Valley's top 10 customers had a combined $13 billion in the bank. Most customers at Main Street banks don't have anything like that. And Anne Balcer, who's with the Independent Community Bankers, say they don't want to shoulder the cost of insuring bigger, riskier banks.

ANNE BALCER: We want our depositors to know that their money is safe. You know, there's no question about that. We want a healthy deposit insurance fund. It's sort of who should pay for posing the most risk through that fund and how kind of that pie is divided up.

HORSLEY: Now, the FDIC does have some discretion in how the insurance bill is divvied up, and it's expected to make some recommendations in about a month.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thank you.

HORSLEY: You're welcome.

MARTIN: Israel has walked back from the brink for now.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. After three months of street protests and turmoil inside the military that intensified into a nationwide labor strike yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put the brakes on his plan to take some control over the judiciary. He's agreed to postpone the move for a month to try to reach a consensus within the opposition, but protesters say they're not ready to give up the fight.

MARTIN: For the latest, we turn to NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Daniel, thank you so much for being here.

ESTRIN: Thanks for having me, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.